Pressure: You’re Soaking in It

Really? Is this how it’s going to be? I guess a pennant race isn’t complete without at least one irritating stretch.

Welcome to it.

The Padres came out strong against Arizona lefty Joe Saunders on Monday night, with Miguel Tejada launching a first-inning bomb to left-center. They had a 2-0 lead before Saunders even recorded a single out. Twenty-seven outs later, the Padres still had those two runs.

They had plenty of chances against Saunders and hit some balls hard. Heck, after Tejada’s home run, Adrian Gonzalez singled and Chase Headley tripled. The Padres didn’t score, thanks to Ryan Ludwick rapping into a 6-4-3 double play between those two events.

Wade LeBlanc gave up the lead in the bottom of the first, serving up a two-run double to Miguel Montero and a two-run homer to Mark Reynolds. The latter came on a 0-2 pitch that caught way too much plate.

Reynolds launched a second blast in the third. LeBlanc again jumped ahead, 0-2. This time, though, he missed with three straight pitches to run the count full. Reynolds fouled off LeBlanc’s next offering and then went deep.

The lesson here is when you’re ahead 0-2 to Mark Reynolds… wait, there is no lesson. He’s just real good.

So is Stephen Drew, but not as good as LeBlanc has been making him look this month. In fairness, everyone has been making Drew look good this month. Dude is hitting .315/.388/.649 in August, with 8 of his 12 homers coming in the proverbial dog days.

Dog days? For a team that’s 24 games out of first place? I hate teams that have nothing to lose. It’s like facing the Padres last year. You think it’ll be easy and next thing you know, it is easy, but not in the way you’d envisioned. No joke: I’m glad the Padres only have two more games left against these guys.

LeBlanc was awful again. He’s a good pitcher, but finesse lefties have little margin for error. When he’s off, he’s really off. Six of the last 62 batters LeBlanc has faced have taken him deep. That is a problem.

Also, how does Chris Denorfia get picked off first with two out in the fourth and his team down, 6-2? The Padres haven’t been winning all year by being more talented than everyone else, they’ve been winning by playing smarter baseball. That wasn’t smart baseball.

On the bright side, Tim Stauffer pitched well. I wouldn’t mind seeing him make a start or two down the stretch. Ken Rosenthal mentions that Baltimore’s Kevin Millwood might be another option. My only issue there is that Millwood stinks. I’d rather see Stauffer, Cory Luebke, and (dare I hope?) Chris Young get some looks. Young starts tonight for the Beavers at Reno. I’m not holding my breath, but stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile, the Rockies beat the Giants to keep San Francisco five games back of the Padres. That’s great, except Colorado is now just seven games back. Have I mentioned that the Rockies make me nervous? Between their weird September mojo and the fact that they remain the most talent-laden team in the division… look, can we just start the playoffs now? Is that so much to ask?

Then again, the Padres are playing meaningful games in September. There’s no way to put a positive spin on five straight losses, but I will say this: 76-54 looks a lot better than 55-75 (2009) or 48-82 (2008). Sure, it’s more stressful at times, but who wants to be fighting for that 49th win right about now?

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7 Responses »

  1. The Latos conundrum is a part of the pressure, imo …he’s at 150 IP … what now?

    Padres seem to be in a “can’t win” situation (pun intended) …

  2. It’s time to end the skid and put together a winning streak.

    It’s hard to imagine that heading into September on a 5 game losing streak — the Padres still have the best record in the National League.
    I tend to lean more towards positive thinking in these times of woe and want.
    Quantum physics would help the clubhouse right about now. Thoughts = energy.
    This energy is influenced by our thoughts and the thoughts of those around us. It is shapeable, formable, and moldable. I’m not spewing some cheap, motivational garbage.
    This has been proven numerous times in a controlled setting by men and women of science.
    Instead of hitting the panic button with the “oh brother, here we go again” crap.
    I say that the Padres and all the fans—shift that thinking into the “let’s kick some ass and make a statement”.
    It all starts with thoughts.
    Stay strong. Win.
    Use the FORCE…
    GO PADRES!!!!!!

  3. Every team has a rough stretch (some teams have very long ones). That we’re in 1st place with the final month of the season looming heightens the focus on this one, but I don’t believe this is anything more than a rough stretch.

    Still, it wouldn’t hurt if someone put a hex on the Rockies (the Giants are toast; Jonathan Sanchez told me so).

  4. I was at the game, and I don’t know how Saunders only gave up 2 runs. We hit the ball hard, we had double-digit hits, but had a number of very “non”-Padre plays: a few double plays, getting picked off, and NOT having any clutch hitting. Denorfia keeps hitting well enough to start, and playing CF bad enough to not (I didn’t think I’d miss TGJR like this) and while Jerry Hairston’s numbers don’t blow you off the page, .250, 10 HR and 50 RBI is a pretty major contribution to the team and he’s really being missed. And not to dog pile on a guy that’s already having a tough time, but I’ve never liked Scott Hairston, and feel like, ultimately, the winning formula would be Denorfia back in LF with Will Venable in CF. He’s not a true CF, but he’s easily the most athletic, fastest and definitely brings more to the table than Hairston, even if he’s maddeningly inconsistent.

  5. I’m going to go ahead and jinx the Padres… they’ll have 80 wins this coming Sunday.

    Yup, the Rockies are doing their mojo again, their pitching has gotten better quick. Drat!

    Guess, this is the pressure of leading the division; oh, what fun!

    Go Padres!

  6. Hi, Geoff. Thanks to hi-def TV, I seem to be seeing something I didn’t earlier this year. I think the young guys Pad arms are starting to get the ball up. Even Latos, when he is riding a high pitch count, is worrying me, but Adams and Gregerson, and especially Frieri from the pen and Le Blanc and Correia are hanging the sliders more as the summer goes on. Tired arms?
    I told you I like Denorfia as a fourth outfielder, and I know a lot of Black’s running game is green lights on the bases, but the run and gun has to slow down when you are four runs down. Go back to signs and stay awake.
    I think the Snake hex started right about when the Pads gave up on Steve Finley. It would be nice to see them bury it this week.

  7. @LynchMob: Yeah, Latos’ innings are becoming an issue. The Padres have come to rely on him more than I think anyone expected they would.

    @Justin: I’m all for the kicking of asses. When can we start?

    @Pat: As long as Sanchez didn’t tell you the Pads would win it all, we should be in good shape.

    @Adam: Looks like Black took your suggestion and has started sticking Venable in center again. I’m glad to see that, too.

    @Frank: I think you may be onto something there. Latos works up in the zone a lot, so I’m not too concerned about him, but when guys like Gregerson and LeBlanc start elevating their pitches, it becomes a problem. Here’s hoping they can fix that before it’s too late.